Since I haven’t written about the 97% for some time, I thought I would post this video of Peter Doran’s TEDx talk about Bringing opinions on climate change closer to reality. There are a couple of things I found interesting about the talk. He mentions his own work (Doran & Zimmerman 2009) in which they surveyed people about their views with respect to global warming. When it came to actual experts, about 97-98% agreed that we are warming and that it is mostly us (human activity is a significant contributing factor). This is essentially the same result that Cook et al. (2013) obtained when they rated abstracts of papers published in the last 20 years, and asked the authors to self-rate their papers.
The other thing he said was that he knew that the view that there wasn’t a consensus amongst scientists was wrong. This is something that also seemed patently obvious to me even before I started engaging in this topic. Every climate scientist I’ve ever spoken to about this also agrees: there is clearly a strong consensus amongst scientists that we are warming, and that it is mostly us. Also, virtually all studies that have looked at this have got the same basic answer; a vast majority of scientists/abstracts/papers endorse this consensus. However, this doesn’t stop some from trying very hard to discredit these studies. There’s a problem though, you can’t discredit these studies by showing that they’re wrong, because they aren’t. If someone redid a study like this and got a very different answer, they would almost certainly have made a mistake (see Richard Tol’s attempt for an example of this #FreeTheTol300). If they redid it and got the same answer, they’d have confirmed the original study’s results.
So, what to do? Well you can try to show that the authors of these studies committed some kind of fraud or research misconduct. An issue here is that this is only really relevant if it was intentional, since simply making a mistake is not fraudulent, and getting the right answer by chance, seems a little unlikely. Let’s think of the logic though. A group of people who are probably well aware that their results will be controversial in some circles, decide that they will do a fraudulent study to get a result that noone with any sense would dispute, rather than doing it properly in the first place. Seems odd given that they should have been well aware of how even the slightest issue would be jumped on by those who would find this result inconvenient. The alternative, is that those who do find this result inconvenient will do anything to discredit the result (that almost everyone knows to be roughly correct) including accusing the authors of fraud and misconduct. I’ll leave it as an exercise for reader to decide which seems more plausible.
Peter Doran’s talk is below. It’s pretty good, although – given recent events – the suggestion at the end is maybe a little unfortunate.